Ah, autumn. The time when tan lines start to fade and lounging under trees in a park with some dude who works in “media” until it’s too cold and you’re too drunk to see straight is no longer a suitable date option. But as the nights draw in and the pubs get more crowded, may I suggest that instead of swiping the night away, you instead make a date with a lanky, foul-mouthed, shameless, wickedly deadpan and screamingly funny new mate of mine? Her name’s Fleabag.
Created by comic genius Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag – both the character and the crisply fresh comedy show which she lends her name to – has been labelled ‘the British answer to Girls’ or ‘your new feminist icon’. Sure, if you want to class a show about a woman who plays fast and loose with sexual partners, common sense or common decency either of those two things. But they diminish what is set to be one of the crown jewels in this year’s TV lineup.
I watched Fleabag with both those quotes bearing down on me and – thankfully – enough quotes from people whom I trust for me to get hooked and binge-watch four of the six episodes without drawing breath. I’ve never pressed “watch next”. I’ve never laughed harder – so hard, at one spectacular comic aside regarding housework, that I had to actually hit pause to get my breath back. And – were I the crying type – I’d probably never cry harder at a show billed as a feminist comedy.
But to boil it down to such is to undermine the nature of what Fleabag is. She’s one of the most interesting female characters permitted on British TV screens. The best way to describe her is: just like us. Where a Hannah or a Carrie represent a terrible facet of womanhood, Fleabag is just a woman. Sure, a bitingly clever, screamingly funny one, but a real one. Frustrating and frustrated. Always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sexy and sexual. A great friend, a bad friend, someone who has her life together, someone who can’t handle anything. A total blooming mess. Very, refreshingly real.
Fleabag will be – I’m sure – incredibly, painfully annoying to some people. Some people will balk at her behaviour – especially when the tender mystery at the heart of the show is unpicked in the final episode – as much as some people will wish she were real. Some men will proclaim the willowy beauty of Waller-Bridge (who is, to my eye, a missing link between Eva Green and Elisabeth Moss) to be too unattractive for TV. Some men will shunt their current manic pixie dream girl du jour off her pedestal in favour of Fleabag (just don’t imagine anyone shouting that name at crucial moments, and no, we never do get to the bottom of why she’s called that). But none of these things make a difference to why we should rejoice that a delightfully offbeat, surreal and grubby little comic gem like this has been made. The fact that it exists – in a time when female comics are so few and far between on TV screens and that many shows need huge scope and huge budget to make a cut-through – deserves celebration. As a date, she definitely deserves three hours of your time. She’ll probably get the drinks in too.
Fleabag is available on BBC iPlayer until May 2019. It is also available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
Where can I watch Fleabag on pay-per-view VOD?